Not so long ago, people referred to Volvos as tanks and their estate cars as ‘wardrobes on wheels’. Nowadays the company is multi award winning, with all three Car of The Year Awards bagged in recent months. There is big talk about environmental criteria and a pledge that every model range will have an electric variant by the start of the next decade and the new V60 is the last model that will be released with a diesel engine.
In amongst all of the achievements and future goals though, here is a slice of what promises to be one of Volvo’s best estate cars ever. The car that you see in the accompanying photos is the largest and fastest load carryall available: the V90 R-Design Pro T8. The ‘Bursting Blue’ paintwork and silver accent details are, in my opinion, a fantastic combination that suit the car perfectly, whilst the body kit adds a nice touch of sportiness. The other main feature to note whilst admiring the outside of this V90 is the set of optional 20-inch diamond cut/matt black alloy wheels that again really suit this car and come shod with 245/40 Pirelli P Zeros.
On top of this, the angled tailgate works well and those now ubiquitous Thor’s Hammer’ headlights, that flank an almost retro looking upright grille, just enhance this most distinctive estate car. Darkened rear side and tailgate glass finishes the effect to a tee.
Moving to the inside and the style just continues aplenty, with charcoal Nappa perforated sports leather faced chairs that grip without being too difficult to slide in and out of – power adjustment including lumbar support is excellent; heating for your posterior is standard here too. Once safely ensconced, you need to take in the beautifully tailored and finished surroundings – the soft, stitched dashboard, doors, centre console and steering wheel; the perforated aluminium inserts for the doors and dash panel that blend so well; the chrome ventilation controls; and the easy to use controls for heating/cold air. Then there is that beautiful touchscreen infotainment system. The Sensus Connect’s 8-inch screen is very intuitive and the main page is split into Navigation, Audio, Phone connectivity and Car Status.
On the subject of audio, I was spoilt with an optional Bowers & Wilkins Premium Sound system that includes a sleek aluminium encased tweeter that sits atop the dashboard; all in all the sound quality was amazing – I always test audio with classical music and this was like driving the Albert Hall down the road during Last Night of the Proms. Then, if you swipe left, touch controls are present for turning such things as Lane Keep Assist and Heads Up Display on and off, safety features you would expect to find in a Volvo these days – incidentally, if you buy a Volvo in Sweden and have an accident, engineers from the factory will want to see the car and get data from it; if you live within an hour of Gothenburg, they will come out to the actual scene of the crash to see what happened – such is Volvo’s dedication to safety. Swipe right and here are all your entertainment options such as Apple Carplay. This is also where you find the tyre pressure calibrate button; it took me ages to find it.
A couple of niggles for me: I don’t like the crystal gear selector lever and stop start toggle – a recessed push start/stop button would be much better and a leather/aluminium finish to the selector preferable. This car was fitted with the optional IntelliSafe system that provides superb blind spot detection (one of my favourite features), Cross Traffic Alert and Rear Collision Mitigation. However, the pod for this tech is fitted at the top of the windscreen, behind the rear view mirror and because I like my seat a little higher, the pod cuts down the view through the front screen when looking towards the left. On a general note, though, there is plenty of headroom even with the seat up a bit and when I sat in the back to test out the comfort, there was plenty of headroom and I could stretch my legs out too.
It seems that to talk about powertrains and performance is at odds with Volvo, especially with their plans for electrification. However, this model sure does have some performance: there’s a turbocharged and supercharged 2-litre four-cylinder engine pushing out a plentiful 320bhp and 400Nm of torque. Add to this an 87bhp electric motor that also churns out more than 240Nm of torque and it’s not surprising that this car rockets to 60mph in just over 4.5 seconds – that’s the same as a hybrid Porsche Panamera that I recently drove. Top speed in the Volvo is limited to 155mph, where permissible. On a negative note, fuel consumption is not what you might expect of a hybrid car – I drove this V90 350 miles through Devon, Somerset, Hampshire and Berkshire on a mixture of roads in all weather conditions and returned 38.5mpg at best, so not quite up to the (NEDC) 140mpg claimed. However, a couple of points to bear in mind here: the way efficiency tests are conducted is changing and they should be much more accurate in the future; the aforementioned Porsche only managed 30mpg; you can drive the Volvo in pure electric mode for more than 20 miles – enough for a lot of peoples’ normal journeys; and finally, a ten year old standard 2.4-litre automatic V70 estate car will only return about 25mpg.
Ten-year-old Volvos, great though they are, don’t drive anywhere near as well as this though. Despite running on 20-inch wheels and low profile rubber, I didn’t ever feel uncomfortable in it – the ride is certainly firm, but not intrusive. This car was fitted with the optional adaptive damping and rear air suspension which works well until you push on through corners and then two tonnes of steel and glass falls behind the competition somewhat. Steering is nicely weighted though and although understeer creeps in, at least you get a good idea of what the wheels are up to – feedback to the chunky steering wheel is much better than a lot of cars give these days.
Safety features abound as you would expect of Sweden’s finest and there is one of the best adaptive cruise control setups I am yet to come across. The buttons on the steering wheel are a delight to use – just hit the set button when you’re at the desired speed; quick presses of the up and down buttons increase/decrease speed by 5mph, whilst a longer press allows for single mph adjustments. Similarly, it is a doddle to regulate the distance to the next vehicle – semi-autonomous tech is brilliant. Lane Keep Assist is another excellent safety aid although I would recommend turning it off on narrow roads otherwise you’ll constantly be admonished. Detection of pedestrians, large animals, cyclists and imminent stationary vehicles is standard on all V90s and includes Full Auto Brake. Then there are airbags galore, inflatable curtains and many other crash protection systems should the unthinkable happen.
The loadspace area is, actually, not class leading but you can still cram a lot of stuff in the back of a V90 – 723 litres with the rear seats folded down and 526 litres with them up is comparable to a Mercedes E-class estate that has 540 litres with the rear seats up. Volvo has done a wonderful job of packaging the hybrid battery and auxiliaries into the transmission tunnel area so as to not compromise this most important part of a load hauling car. The V90 has lots of retention eyes and the fit and finish of the carpeting and panels is superb. To gain access, you just press a button under the rear handle and the tailgate lifts on strong dampers; to close, another button instigates a slow, soft closure – don’t forget to employ the loadspace pull cover to keep your belongings away from prying eyes.
Summarising the Volvo V90 T8 is a little tricky because it is contradictory in that it has green credentials but also goes up the road like a scalded cheetah if you want it to. It is a luxury car but also has sporting pretensions, certainly in its styling anyway. However, I became extremely fond of this car and really struggled to give the keys back – Volvo is definitely on a roll at the moment and long may it continue and grow. Forget the Germans, Sweden is producing estate cars to be proud of.